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138 x 216mm


66 pages


£10.00 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-912876-32-7


PUB: 09/11/2020










Mermaid on Legs


Lizzie Smith





In ‘Mermaid on Legs’ a mermaid swims in and out of the narrative. She is a selkie, a shapeshifter. When she grows legs and lives on land, she can experience joy and suffering in the body of a woman. However she always has the chance to escape back to the sea. From the fringes of society, living in an ocean where life is dying, she sings you elegies – as well as cheeky scherzos.



“A fascinating first collection, with mermaids – young, mature or ageing – but not always as you might expect.  These poems take the reader on unusual explorations – even a fine last will.  


Smith deftly explores feminist issues such as agency and the perceived role of women.  

Many poems display an environmental concern.”

Christine de Luca








She chose him:

disentangled herself

from her angel element

of underworld seaweed


and ascended to join him

in his manly realm

of smelly diesel fumes

and fisher oilskins.


His anchor-tattooed biceps

pulled her aboard,

caught her, clasped her,

his scratchy beard like sand.


She entered his house

and lay down in his bed,

rose up in the morning

and did as a wife.



Winter Welkin Keening


Where can you find me when winter winds whistle?

under the welkin, white with frost,

on a calm day when low tides plash,

and blue hills fade to vanishing point.


In the biting breezes of the North,

I bulk up blubber in defence, and lie

with my sisters, far away from you,

flapping my flippers to keep circulation.


Nipples unsucked by searching mouths

hibernate and hope for warmer dawns,

where engine oil is not pumped out

and swallowed up by wide-eyed pups.


On a dry night, when you’re in bed

we rise for moon rites – and dance

round bonfires in a banshee frenzy

keening for a return to selkie sanity.



Senior Mermaids


Old Mermaids have wrinkles too, you know

a sign of seniority, wisdom, stripes earned

in salty sun, guarding wrecked survivors –

or scolding silly little mermaids sporting.


They can be so cheeky it makes me want to

cut out their wagging tongues, but I’m no witch.

I treasure their lulling voices in sunset songs

and marvel at their slick flicks in unison.


My wrinkly dugs hang down: they’ve given suck

to sweet lips of swimmers limpetted on,

who grew to darting minnows hide-and-seeking

till they left for far-off treasure shores.


My tail has lost its sparkly sequin sheen –

now replaced by decorative hangers on,

who cling to me to show my queenly status.

Necklaces nestle and gleam in my grooves.


Now I wait for the dolphin time, to rise

to the surface to coast again, holding fins,

feeling the speed I’ve lost. Then sink,

thankfully, for quiet drinks with the old men





Sometime, one time, you were treading the earth

until you slipped off this spinning planet.

I still feel that I might walk into you:

one day turn the corner and bump into you.


How odd that you talked politics, lay on your

back to admire the stars, stood on your head,

believed you were Mercury the messenger,

then posted yourself off to another world –

without leaving a note or mark behind.

Lizzie Smith grew up by the seaside in St Andrews in Scotland. She went to Cambridge University to study literature and ended up working in Japan, Switzerland and England.


She has sung some very high notes, climbed several scary mountains and diced with death, diving in Thailand.


Lizzie now lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two children and passes on her love of language, as a teacher.


'Mermaid on Legs' is her first collection.

Shape Shifter


I am one of the shoal of silver fish

that dart and swim in unison;

I am the wave that gathers speed and height

and crashes in a glorious foamy mess;

then I am strapped to the prow of a stormy ship

exposed to the elements, a vain mascot;

then I am cast in stone on a quay in Denmark

pawed over, snapped at, universally admired;

I am a seal who dives after supper

and enjoys a tasty morsel of squid;

I am the singer of songs near rocks,

warning you – too late I fear.

We are all bound to this universe

if not by time, by matter, I hear.



How do you mount a mermaid?


How do you mount a mermaid?

That’s the question on everyone’s lips,

That’s the eternal mystery –

not whether they really exist.


Well, have you heard of a mermaid’s purse?

On shore it’s crackly and dry;

immersed, it’s wet and makes a pocket

to wriggle a finger in and pry.


Use your imagination, then,

to work out how to grapple,

bed her on the rocking wave –

without gulping too much water.





Like a witch they tried

to duck and drown,

she bobs to the surface,

borne up by billowing skirts,

her hair a halo of seaweed.


The recurring nightmare

of her resurfacing skeleton

taunts the tormentors

as she becomes sanctified

in body, by the water.


Like the figurehead maid displayed

on the jutting battleship Unicorn,

chest first, breast exposed, unfurled,

she will not be cowed:

she rises proud.



Epiphany 2019

On the discovery of Ultimate Thule


Will snowmen melt out of existence

and be remembered in folklore

as being as rare as White Christmases

or lakes freezing over?


I stare at the new ‘snowman’

the paper says has been discovered –

seeing the sign of infinity

as a kind of Trump balloon.


Now we gods do not follow the stars,

we mount and ride past them.

Where are the wise men and women

to halt this flat earth slide?


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